Prosecutors accuse Barcelona of corruption in ref payments

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Prosecutors have formally accused Spanish soccer club Barcelona of corruption because of its payments over several years to a company that belonged to the vice president of the country's refereeing committee.

The decision, made official on Friday, was reported earlier this week by Spanish newspaper El País. An investigating judge will now decide whether the accusations should lead to charges.

Barcelona has been under scrutiny since the club's payments involving millions of dollars became public. The payments were initially investigated as part of a tax probe into the company.

Prosecutors have now issued three accusations which include alleged corruption in sports and fraudulent management. Another accusation related to the alleged falsification of mercantile documentation.

Spanish soccer has been rocked in recent weeks after it was revealed that Spain’s tax officials were probing Barcelona's payment of 1.4 million euros ($1.5 million) between 2016-18 to a company belonging to former referee José María Enríquez Negreira, who was a part of the Spanish soccer federation’s refereeing committee from 1994 to 2018.

Barcelona has consistently any wrongdoing or conflict of interest, saying it paid for technical reports on referees but never tried to influence their decisions in games.

Getting reports on referees is common practice and clubs can pay other companies or have them prepared internally, as Barcelona now does.

Media reports said the payments by Barcelona totaled more than 7 million euros ($7.5 million) and that they started back in 2001. That scenario would mean Barcelona paid Enríquez's company during different club presidents, including from 2003-10 under the first term of current president Joan Laporta, who again took charge in 2021. Laporta, however, is not being accused by the prosecutor and has denied any wrongdoing.

The accusations are against Barcelona the club, Enríquez, former Barcelona presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, and former Barcelona executives Óscar Grau and Albert Soler.


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